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Series Preview: Rays vs. Orioles

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Uh oh, the Birds are streaking!

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays continue to hold the best record in the American League after winning a two game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Now the Rays head to Baltimore for a three game set against the Orioles.

At 79-48 the Rays hold onto the American League East lead with 35 games remaining. The New York Yankees have pulled to within 4.0 games of the East thanks to a 12 game winning streak. The Red Sox sit 7.0 games back. The Toronto Blue Jays have fallen to 12.5 games back. The Orioles are officially out of the East race at 38.5 games back with 36 to go, but after a lot of losses they did manage to twin two in a row against the Angels.

Matchups:

Friday 7:05 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Matt Harvey
Saturday 7:05 PM: Luis Patino vs John Means
Sunday 1:05 PM: Chris Archer vs Spenser Watkins

Matt Harvey has had a year to forget posting a 6.27 ERA/4.70 FIP/4.78 xFIP. Though the good news is he’s been mostly healthy and put up 113.1 innings. He might have showed enough health to get another one year major league deal. He doesn’t get many strikeouts with a 17.1% strikeout rate but limits walks with a 6.5% walk rate. The Rays offense has lit him up in two starts: 11 runs in 6.1 total innings with four homers. Harvey mixes a 93.5 mph four-seam fastball and 93.0 mph sinker as his fastball offerings. He’ll add a 86.8 mph slider, 80.0 mph curveball, and 85.3 mph changeup.

Unlike Harvey, John Means has massively over performed his FIP/xFIP. He’s put up a 3.50 ERA/4.74 FIP/4.44 xFIP. He gets more strikeouts (22.9%) and walks fewer (4.4%), but he allows a lot of homers. He combines a high flyball rate (48.9%) with an above average HR/FB rate (15.3%). He’s faced the Rays three times and has had one good start (2 runs, 1 earned in 5.0 innings), a disappointing start (4 earned runs in 6.1 innings), and one disaster (7 runs, 4 earned in 4.0 innings). The left handed Means leans on a 92.7 mph four-seam fastball that he uses around half the time. Against right handed batters he adds a 83.2 mph changeup and 77.7 mph curveball. Against left hander he throws a 86.3 mph slider as part of a mostly two pitch repertoire.

Spenser Watkins had not performed well in his first taste of the majors. In 42.0 innings he has a 7.07 ERA/4.98 FIP/5.36 xFIP. His 14.4% strikeout rate is low while his 8.2% walk rate is merely average. In his first start against the Rays he had a very good outing allowing one run in 6.0 innings as part of a stretch of four games to start his career allowing one or fewer runs. However the last six outings have been a disaster. He has allowed four or more runs in every outing including two against the Rays where he allowed five and four runs. Watkins throws a 90.6 mph four-seam fastball as his go to pitch. He adds a 86.3 mph cutter. He will mix in some 78.9 mph curveballs and 85.2 mph changeups in low volumes.

The starting rotation hasn’t been good, but the results haven’t been better when they’ve handed the ball to the bullpen. In 515.1 innings the bullpen has put up a 5.33 ERA/4.60 FIP/4.56 xFIP. Cole Sulser has been the lone good performer in the pen.

The Orioles are better offensively but still a long way from good.

Overall the team is hitting .240/.303/.405 and putting up a 94 wRC+. A 94 wRC+ isn’t good, but it is also not terrible, tied for 16th best in the league. However that has only translated to 4.10 runs per game which is sixth worst in the majors. They hit for middling power but strike out quite frequently while having the second lowest walk rate (7.4%) in the majors.

Cedric Mullins II leads the way offensively with a .307/.370/.525 line and 144 wRC+. He has 22 homers and 24 stolen bases.

Ramon Urias (119 wRC+), Ryan Mountcastle (115 wRC+), Trey Mancini (110 wRC+), and Anthony Santander (103 wRC+) have posted good performances at the plate.

The problem is everybody else has severely under performed.

They haven’t hit well as a team and they have defended poorly. They have a -45 DRS and -5.2 UZR. That’s a bad combination when you’re trying to put wins on the board.

The Rays are 15-1 against the Orioles.

The Rays have taken care of business against the Orioles. It’s hard to be more dominant than they have been in their head-to-head matchup. The Rays need to not let the foot off the gas as they head down the home stretch of the season.

The Rays are where they want to be. It’s tempting to circle the finale series against the Yankees, but they shouldn’t! Any major league team can beat any other major league team on any given day; even though the Orioles have struggled the Rays still need to put together three strong games to beat them.